COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The Texas A&M women's basketball program celebrated its return to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five years at the team's annual banquet held Wednesday night at The Zone Club at Kyle Field.
The Aggies closed out another great chapter in school history this past season with a 24-11 overall record and their seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance under ninth-year head coach Gary Blair. Even with the second-toughest schedule in the nation, A&M recorded its seventh consecutive 20-win season under Blair and was ranked as high as No. 4 in both the USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches Top 25 Poll and Associated Press Top 25 Poll. The Aggies finished their season averaging a program-best 6,592 fans at each home game, which ranked 12th-best in the country in attendance. A&M also boasted the second-best average attendance (6,296) as one of 16 hosts of the NCAA First and Second Rounds.
With heartfelt emotion, seniors Kelsey Assarian (Naples, Fla.), Sydney Carter (DeSoto, Texas), Skylar Collins (Cedar Hill, Texas), Adaora Elonu (Houston, Texas) and Tyra White (Kansas City, Mo.) thanked their families, coaches, teammates, support staff and fans during the ceremony. The Class of 2012 will leave Aggieland with one of the best four-year records in program history at 110-32 (.775).
Elonu was honored with the team's coveted Most Valuable Player Award with her contributions both on and off the court. She served as team captain for the third straight year, was an Academic All-Big 12 honoree for the third consecutive time and averaged career bests with 11.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-1 forward started every game this season and holds the Texas A&M and Big 12 record for most career games played (141). She led the team in blocked shots this year and ranks eighth all-time in career blocked shots (88) at A&M. The 2012 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selection also finished her career ranked sixth in career rebounds (728) and 12th in career points (1,195).
Carter was presented with two awards on the evening - the Miss Aggie Award, which is annually given to a women's basketball player who displays loyalty and commitment to the university and program, and for the third consecutive year, the Miss Defense Award. The 5-foot-6 guard was a two-time Big 12 All-Defensive Team selection and a member of the All-Big 12 Second team this season. A team captain, Carter averaged 10.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game as a senior and holds the A&M record for best career free throw percentage (.820, 296-361). In addition, she ranks fifth all-time in career 3-point field goals made (130), eighth in career assists (388) and free throws made (296), ninth in career steals (206) and 13th in career points (1,176). Carter was chosen 27th overall in the 2012 WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky.
For the second straight year, White was the recipient of the team's Miss Offense Award. The six-foot guard led the team averaging 13.1 points along with 5.6 rebounds per game. She became a two-time honoree as both a WBCA All-America Honorable Mention and an All-Big 12 First Team selection. White ends her Aggie career ranked fourth all-time in career field goals made (601), seventh in career points (1,482), ninth in career 3-point field goal percentage (.340, 87-256) and 10th in career rebounds (594). White was recently selected 16th overall in the 2012 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks.
Taking home the team's Miss Hustle Award for the second year in-a-row, and the 6th Man Award for the first time, was Collins. As one of the most hard-working players on the team, the 5-foot-9 guard averaged 3.2 points and led the team shooting 50 percent from 3-point range this season. Collins provided a spark off the bench for the Aggies all year, but especially in the postseason when she was a perfect 7-for-7 in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. She also scored a career-best 15 points against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Semifinals.
Junior Kelsey Bone (Houston, Texas) garnered the team's Newcomer of the Year Award. Also tabbed the Big 12's Newcomer of the Year, Bone played in all 35 games this season with 31 starts. She was A&M's leading rebounder with 6.9 rebounds per game and the team's second-leading scorer with 11.9 points per game. The 6-foot-4 center was named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention and to the Big 12 All-Tournament Team. She finished the season ranked third in the Big 12 and 19th nationally with a 52.0 field goal percentage.
Sophomore Karla Gilbert (College Station, Texas) received the team's Most Improved Award. She saw action in 35 games this year with three starts. The 6-foot-5 center averaged 5.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game and shot a team-best 54.1 percent from the floor while setting career bests in nearly every statistical category.
For their off-the-court accomplishments in the classroom, Assarian and Elonu shared the Academic Award. Assarian is a two-time winner of the award and was one of just six student-athletes in the Big 12 to become a three-time Academic All-Big 12 First Team honoree this season. She graduated in three-and-a-half years with a bachelor's degree in Information & Operations Management and a 3.4 GPA. Elonu graduated in just three years with a bachelor's degree in Allied Health. She carried a 3.56 GPA across the stage, is currently working towards a master's degree in health education and plans to attend medical school.
Freshman Alexia Standish (Colleyville, Texas) rounded out the team award winners with the Rookie Award. A member of the Big 12 All-Freshman Team, she played in 34 games of the season with 21 starts. The 5-foot-8 point guard became only the second true freshman to start more than 20 games at point guard under Blair. She led the Big 12 with a 42.7 3-point field goal percentage and was the team's leading scorer in the last six games averaging 12.8 points per game. In addition, Standish shot 54.1 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from beyond the arc in the last nine games of the season.
Rod and Ellen Thornton were honored by Coach Blair with the Season's Greatest Fan Award. A special highlight video of the season written, edited and produced by Charlene Kroeker of 12th Man Productions concluded the night's festivities.
2011-12 TEXAS A&M WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM CELEBRATION BANQUET
April 18, 2012
The Zone Club at Kyle Field
at College Station, Texas
MVP Award - Adaora Elonu
Miss Aggie Award - Sydney Carter
Miss Offense Award - Tyra White
Miss Defense Award - Sydney Carter
Miss Hustle Award - Skylar Collins
Newcomer of the Year Award - Kelsey Bone
6th Man Award - Skylar Collins
Most Improved Award - Karla Gilbert
Team Academic Award - Kelsey Assarian and Adaora Elonu
Rookie Award - Alexia Standish
Season's Greatest Fan Award - Rod and Ellen Thornton